Megacool is a startup born out of the mobile games studio Dirtybit, and it’s just raised $1.5 million to scale up its GIF-recording integration technology and hire more engineers. Alliance Venture, an early-stage venture capital firm from Norway, led the round.
The integration enables developers to define what Megacool calls “emotional moments” in a game. Whenever one of these happens, the Megacool integration starts capturing the gameplay as a GIF. At the end of the moment, the player receives a prompt to share the GIF via social media, text, or email. The inspiration behind the tool is from the studio’s own experience in game development.
“During our time at Dirtybit, we had a really hard time doing any sort of paid user acquisition,” said Aurora Klaeboe Berg, the cofounder and chief operating officer of Megacool, in a phone call with GamesBeat. “Our [lifetime value] for users was too far away from what it cost to acquire users, so we had to be very creative about how we grew our user base. We saw that our users would love to spread word of mouth. If we could help them do it, they would do it even more and it would be easier for them.”
User acquisition is a major pain point for mobile games. It’s a crowded market that could reach $65 billion in 2020 and has for the first time surpassed revenue from PC and console. The idea behind Megacool is to help developers make it easier for players to spread the word about their game.
For the last year, Megacool has been in a closed beta, with a handful of studios and a total of 1.5 million monthly active users. One of the studios in this test is the developer Dots, who has been testing the tool in its stylish puzzle game Dots & Co. Berg says that they’ve seen an average of a 10 percent increase in downloads after games integrate the Megacool tool, though she cautions that it has to be integrated properly.
“For a lot of developers, when it comes to marketing, they tend to just be bolting on something at the end,” said Berg. “It’s not a part of their software development process from the beginning, which I would argue it should be. Especially for the early beta partners, we’re able to be very hands-on with them and guide them through the process of a good integration.”
As mentioned before, part of making the most of the integration is identifying emotional moments where players are likely to want to share GIFs. So far, it doesn’t seem like an exact science. Developers can decide what moments they deem as shareable and trigger the GIF recording without the user having to press a “start recording” button. As each studio integrates the tool, it’s likely that it’ll have to play around with what its players want to share.
“Our advice is always to only show it once you know that the user has either had a really good moment, or something where they’ve really made a fool of themselves, because those are the moments where you’re more likely to share the event and start talking about it,” said Berg.”
One surprising bit of data is that users have shared 60 percent of GIFs via private messaging, such as iMessage, as opposed to social media. After private messaging, email comes in second.
“Based on our data, if the user has a choice, they don’t usually choose to broadcast themselves on that kind of public platforms,” said Berg. “You want to share content with friends where you know it’s relevant to them. Players are choosing to share to more closed-off groups where they can control who sees it.”
In the future, Megacool plans on developing further analytics tools to help its partners track where GIFs are being shared as well as to help target the most engaging moments in their games.
“That’s coming. It’s in production now. Talking generally about analytics, we offer a dashboard where the developers can see specifically where their GIFs are being shared, on which platforms, and how each channel converts in terms of clicks, popularity, installs, and maybe most exciting, re-engagement,” said Berg. “In addition, they also get to see a live feed of everything that’s being shared from their games.”
Patrick Moberg, chief creative officer and cofounder of Dots, says that being able to track on social is valuable, but the most interesting thing for them is the GIF.
“We’ve added Megacool to Dots & Co. for beta testing, and so far we’ve found that their software development kit was simple to implement in Unity and has impressive tech powering it,” said Moberg in an email. “Their ability to track users’ shares on social and resulting installs is valuable, but the key differentiator that excites us is the GIF, which has potential that we have yet to explore fully.”
At the moment, Megacool is exploring different avenues for monetization. It hopes to leave beta at the end of this year, but it’s keeping a close eye on making sure its tool stays cost-effective for them as well as game studios.
“Most important, we’re working to find the best way that works for both us and developers without creating a cost issue,” Berg said. “What we’re really trying to do is give everyone an alternative to just relying on paid user acquisition.”